This is the first guest post in a series of guest posts relaying different women’s personal stories about their decision to use and journey using the fertility awareness method.
I never really questioned being on the pill. All of my girlfriends were on it. My doctor, while I did complain to her about my migraines and acne, consoled me that I just needed more time for my body to adjust. I didn’t really understand how it worked, I just knew it did. While my periods were ridiculously irregular (I was on the mini-pill, which doesn’t have placebo weeks.) my cramps were gone.
My at the time boyfriend, now fiance, saw me struggle. He didn’t want me to have to deal with bad effects from birth control anymore and explained something he’d heard in Catholic boarding school health class. It was a birth control method that required I chart my cycle and work with an instructor to treat any cycle problems. It was also highly effective for family planning.
“Yea right.” was my response. I believe my exact words were, “A woman can get pregnant anytime, anywhere, anyway. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.”
But, I was intrigued. I did my research.
Late one night, I was in the dark all by myself and googled “natural family planning”. One of the first studies I stumbled upon was from the Oxford Journal of Human Reproduction. The stat I saw was 99.4% effective for avoiding pregnancy, when learned well and used perfectly. I was floored. I had never heard of anything like it.
I felt duped. I realized I didn’t know basic things about my own body. When am I fertile? For how long? What does my fertility look like? Why didn’t sex ed tell me any of this?
Even after that night, it took me two more months to get off the pill. I begrudgingly kept taking it, 5pm every day. Each and every tiny pill with a little more hesitation. And then I stopped. This was scary for me. I don’t know why, but I thought my body would rebel off the pill and run amok. Of course in hindsight, I realize the frequent pounding migraines, the acne worse than anything in pre-teen years, and the mood swings, were signs my body was already running amok on the pill.
What I found after ditching the pill, instead, was an actual “regular” period. (As I said before, the mini-pill did not provide a regular “false period” like the combination pill does.) I didn’t chart right away, though. I spent a couple months just noting when I got my period, and when I thought I might be fertile. I don’t really know why it was so scary to start, but it definitely wasn’t an over night decision.
The website iusenfp.com had just gotten up and running and I wanted to support them. So I bought a thermometer from their site and started temping every morning. That was 2 years ago, and I haven’t stopped since then.
I’d like to say everything was perfect from there on out and charting was completely easy. Well, charting is easy. Discerning a chart can be hard, and charting alone doesn’t “cure” cycle problems. I had to work with multiple instructors to figure out what diet and lifestyle problems were contributing to my cycle problems. I’ve learned I have to constantly watch my weight. If I don’t make sure I’m eating a certain number of calories (and especially protein) every day, the numbers drop on the scale and ovulation goes MIA.
I’m pretty fluent in charting now. If I see an irregularity, I recognize it right away and seek help. Hannah is super helpful. I’ll shoot her a chart in the morning and she’ll give me a second opinion in the same day. It’s so worth it to have an instructor that’s on your side! I went through a handful of instructors, and Hannah has been my favorite by far. Don’t settle on an instructor if you don’t feel you can be completely frank and sincere with them!
Lastly, if you’re looking into charting but are scared to start, know it’s a scary thing, but it can be the most rewarding journey if you let yourself get caught up in it.
Cassie is a 20-something filmmaker and blogger and loves all things women’s fertility. She enjoys cooking, ice skating, and reading. She believes good food and drink with good company is the best habit for happiness.